January 21 – April 29, 2020

Description: The Introduction to Permaculture Course is a three-credit course that offers students a foundation in permaculture history, ethics, principles, design process, and practical applications. The framework behind the theory and practice of permaculture is rooted in the observation of natural systems. By observing key ecological relationships, we can mimic and apply these beneficial relationships in the design of systems that serve humans while helping to restore the natural world. This course trains students as critical thinkers, observers, and analysts of the world(s) around them, and then goes on to provide students with the tools needed to design for inspired and positive change.

Instructor: Abrah Jordan Dresdale is certified in Permaculture Design and holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Landscape Design and Food Systems Planning from the Conway School. She lives in rural and culturally vibrant Western Massachusetts where she spent four years developing and coordinating the nationally recognized, interdisciplinary Farm and Food Systems degree program at Greenfield Community College. She teaches college courses on permaculture design, food systems, and Jewish agricultural traditions at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Greenfield Community College, and Brandeis University Summer High School Programs. Her edible landscape design business, Feeding Landscapes, has developed projects ranging from a Public Food Forest for the Town of Wendell, MA, to the design and implementation of “Edible Pathways” for Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India to providing technical support for the creation of a campus permaculture garden at Wesleyan University. Her current focus is on her consulting business, where she is developing a prototype Jail-to-Farm-to-College Pipeline at the Franklin County Jail and social permaculture curriculum for non-profit organizations such as Omega Institute and The Jewish Farm School. More at: www.abrahdresdale.com


STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The goals for this course include 7 key outcomes. Students will:

  • Understand permaculture history, ethics, principles
  • Identify connections between social, cultural, environmental, and challenges
  • Recognize and analyze patterns found in society and the natural world
  • Apply whole systems thinking to problem solving through design
  • Observe, analyze, and assess a site to determine its resources and constraints
  • Gain knowledge of a rigorous design process
  • Learn techniques for clean water, soil, food production, buildings, and economics
  • Week 1: Introduction to Whole Systems Thinking
  • Week 2: History, Overview, Ethics, Definitions of Permaculture
  • Week 3: Permaculture Principles & Niche Analysis


  • Week 4: Pattern Recognition
  • Week 5: Design Process Overview & Goals Articulation
  • Week 6: Reading the Landscape: Site Assessment & Analysis
  • Week 7: Design: Putting it All Together + A Case Study


  • Week 8: Water: Stormwater Management, Water Catchment, Aquaculture
  • Week 9: Soil: Composting, Vermiculture, Berms/Swales, Keyline Planning
  • Week 10: Food/Vegetation: Edible Forest Gardening, Livestock, Urban Agriculture
  • Week 11 Waste: Humanure, Bioremediation, Greywater Systems, Living Machines
  • Week 12: Building Strategies: Natural Building, Alternative Energy, Site Location for Efficient Energy, Adaptive Reuse


  • Week 13: Local Economies: Timebanking, Worker-Owned Cooperatives, Local Currency
  • Week 14: Building Resilient Communities: Community-Supported Agriculture, Transition Towns, Local Food Systems

Academic Honesty

No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  • Cheating – intentional use or attempted use of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud and/or misrepresentation of one’s academic work
  • Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification and/or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise
  • Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting without citation, in whole or in part, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another, including but not limited to commercial vendors who sell or distribute such materials
  • Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, or allowing others to represent as their own one’s papers, reports, or academic works

Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the course instructor as soon as possible. Formal definitions of academic dishonesty, examples of various forms of dishonesty, and the procedures which faculty must follow to penalize dishonesty are contained in the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class fulfills requirements for all three of the online programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Sustainable Food and Farming: